All posts by ellispritchard

Swap Shop

We had a very successful day at the Craft Market on Saturday, where we held our annual Seedling Swap.

A boot full of plants for the swap!

Starting with plants grown by our committee members, many from seed obtained at February’s Seed Swap, our stock soon rose and fell as ALFI supporters and friends arrived with new donations, and took away other people’s excess seedlings. Members of the public also browsed and took plants in exchange for a donation: just the way things are supposed to work.


Talk of the Town

What’s particularly nice about these events is the opportunity it gives to chat with fellow gardeners, whether hardened veterans or curious starters.

This year it was notable that many people were complaining about the generally cool Spring and the late frosts, with parts of Alton experiencing a degree of frost in the first week of May. Not unheard of perhaps, but what’s quite ironic, of course, is the complete lack of any frost this winter until well into the New Year, resulting in daffodils blooming at Christmas!

Set up and swapping

As a result of the cool weather, there was a complete lack of French beans, and notably fewer other less-hardy plants such cucumbers & courgettes. If it hadn’t been for a very generous donation of Runner beans early in the day, we’d have been completely bean-less! Tomatoes were in plentiful supply though, with several varieties on offer, since only a fool would ever try to germinate them in outside this time of year (Er, I did, which is why mine are still tiny!).


Stock take

What we lacked in legumes, we made up for in other species: we had strawberries, rhubarb, chard, celery, artichokes, peas, beetroot, chillies & peppers, and a wide variety of herbs; plus a number of companion plants, flowers, and plants for wild gardens, to keep the wild-life happy!

Thanks for everyone who contributed, it was lovely to chat to you; good luck growing your fresh acquisitions! See you at the AGM*?

*Our AGM is on July 11th, meeting at 19:00 to admire the Vicarage Gardens, then from 19:30 at the back room in the Railway Arms.

Pear and mincemeat crumble cake


Use up any mincemeat you have over from Christmas for this tasty cake.


4 pears
3 tbsp. golden caster sugar
1 tsp. mixed spice
250g softened butter
250g golden caster sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 large eggs
200g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
7 tbsp. plain flour
6 tbsp. mincemeat


Peel and core the pears. Cut into thumb-size pieces.

Put the pears, 2 tbsp. of caster sugar and 2 tbsp. of water in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes to tenderise.

Add the spice and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to 160C(140C fan)/Gas 3.

Grease and line the base and sides of a round, deep 20cm cake tin.

Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and a little salt together.

Beat in the eggs and self raising flour. Then fold in the ground almonds.

Remove 85g of the batter into a small bowl and mix in the plain flour to make a crumbly looking mix.

Spoon half the cake batter into the cake tin. Top with half the pears and dot over half the mincemeat. Add the remaining batter, top with the rest of the pears and mincemeat and then the crumble mix. Sprinkle over the last tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 1½ hours. Cover with foil after one hour.

Cool in the tin for ten minutes then cool on a rack.

ALFI Harvest Feast was delicious

We had our annual Harvest Feast at the Methodist Church Hall on Saturday 10 October during the morning and at lunchtime.  The hall was decorated with berries and autumn leaves and flowers and some impressive pumpkins grown by our members. We offered delicious homemade produce, including seed spelt biscuits, beetroot and chocolate cake, and apple cake with coffee or tea. There were a variety of homemade soups for lunch including spicy parsnip, butternut squash, and watercress soup with homemade bread, rolls or muffins.

There was a photographic display showing the plots and planters around town, including the latest Vicarage Plot in St Lawrence Vicarage front garden and the Sensory Garden at the Limes that ALFI volunteers work on.

We offered bags of eating applies and packets of autumn seeds and green manure.

Plenty of local people dropped in to look around and sit and have a chat over coffee or lunch. Donations were invited and profit from the event will be used for materials needed for the twelve sites around Alton that ALFI garden.

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

We enjoyed this one at the 2015 Harvest Festival.


50 g cocoa powder
180g plain flour
1.25 teaspoons baking powder
250g castor sugar
300g fresh cooked beetroot (cook whole with skin on and then remove skin)
3 eggs
200 ml corn oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Prepare a 7” cake tin – line the bottom with greaseproof paper and tie 2 layers of newspaper round the outside.

Sift cocoa, flour and baking powder together. Stir in the sugar and leave on one side.

Puree or liquidise the beetroot, put in a clean bowl and then stir in the eggs, corn oil and vanilla.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the beetroot mixture. Mix gently and then pour into the tin.

Bake at Gas Mark 4 / 160 degrees C for approx 40 minutes.

It will be done when a skewer comes out clean and surface is cracked. Dust with icing sugar. If you like, split it open and fill with a chocolate icing.

Chocolate icing – mix together 100 g icing sugar, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 30 g margarine and 1.5 tablespoons of hot milk. Beat well until smooth. Use to ice a cake or fill the middle.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup


2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
Half a teaspoon ground cumin
Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
Half a teaspoon ground ginger
Quarter teaspoon ground cloves
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1kg butternut squash
750 ml vegetable stock
1 tin chickpeas
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or similar)
1 tbs lemon juice
Salt and pepper


Peel and chop the onion & garlic.
Peel the butternut squash and cut into chunks.
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic
Cook gently for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften, then add the spices, sugar and butternut squash
Cook for 5 minutes, stirring until fragrant.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil.
Simmer gently until the squash is tender.
Add the chickpeas, Tabasco and lemon juice.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Puree the mixture in a food processor or with a handheld blender until smooth. Serve piping hot, with a sprinkling of cayenne if liked.

Baked Apples


100g  dried fruit of your choice – mixed tropical fruit is good
1tsp   ground cinnamon
4tbsp clear honey
50g    chopped hazelnuts – can be omitted
4        large cooking apples
Lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Roughly chop the dried fruit and mix with the cinnamon, honey and hazelnuts. You can also add a little vanilla or rum at this point.
  3. Core the apples and score the skin around the middle. Place in a baking dish.
  4. Brush the hollows of the apple with lemon juice.
  5. Fill the centre of the apples with the fruit and nut mix.
  6. Bake for 30–40 minutes until golden and soft. Cove r with foil if filling starts to get too brown.

Courgette Flower and Herb Risotto

Serves 2


1 onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 finely chopped courgette
Good splash of olive oil
150g Risotto rice
Half a litre of vegetable stock (a little more may be needed)
1 wine glass white wine
Handful of chopped herbs (such as thyme, marjoram, parsley) and courgette flowers
Garnish: Courgette Flowers


Fry the onion, garlic and courgette gently in olive oil until softened but not brown. Add Risotto rice and stir for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, gradually add stock and wine. Return to heat and simmer gently, stirring very frequently, until the stock is absorbed and the rice cooked (add more hot stock if necessary). Add the handful of chopped herbs and flowers and mix well. Serve with the garnish.

Chive flower butter

If you already have chive plants, once they start to flower you can use some of the flowers to make into a butter to add colour and flavour to dishes such as jacket potatoes, grilled fish, steak, or lightly steamed vegetables, or even added to sandwiches.

Pick flowering stems, and discarding the stems, crumble the florets of the flower into butter at room temperature, mix and return to the fridge to allow the flavour to develop, in the same way as for herb butter.

(Wild ramson flowers can also be treated in the same way, but be wary, it can be very strong!)

Seedling Swap Saturday May 9th

Another successful Seedling Swap in Cross and Pillory Lane as part of the Craft Market.

This annual event has become a favourite with our supporters, many of whom arrived early with the seedlings they had grown for us. Other donations of plants continued to arrive all day, and the team of stall holders were kept busy refilling the tables with new arrivals as fast as other seedlings were taken away. Even a shower in the middle of the day didn’t dampen spirits, as people compared notes on growing the different varieties available.

The donations amounted to over £120, so after expenses we have a healthy balance which will go towards maintaining and developing our many plots and planters around the town.

Thanks to all the helpers, growers and supporters.